What do you do when you sign onto what sounds like a very promising project—the Metropolitan Museum’s Regarding Warhol exhibition (now closed), only to find that it’s a popular success but a critical train wreck?
You reconceive it.
Eric Shiner, director of the most sympathetic place to see Warhol’s work—the Andy Warhol Museum, where the show travels (Feb. 3-Apr. 28)—is billed in his institution’s recent press release as curator of the show’s Pittsburgh presentation. I asked Shiner if his show would differ from the New York version, and whether the negative critical response would be taken into account.
And how. Here’s what Eric told me today:
The installation at the Andy Warhol Museum will be quite different from the installation at the Met. Of course, we will have many more Warhol works on display in our galleries, and perhaps the biggest change will be the space dedicated to the exhibition: In Pittsburgh, we will spread the show over six floors of the museum.
Sadly, about six of the works from the Met show were unable to travel to Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons, but we have replaced them with similar works by the same artists from the holdings of the Carnegie Museum of Art, our sister institution. We are also incorporating Kara Walker into the mix, based on her recent statements about Warhol’s Shadows paintings being a huge influence on her and her work.
Finally, we will be making many different juxtapositions and comparisons [emphasis added] between Warhol’s work and the participating artists that will be quite different from the Met exhibition. We have taken the criticisms of the Met show into account as we redesigned the show for Pittsburgh.
This makes an interesting postcript to my November lecture at Middlebury College on How Critics Influence Museums (and vice versa), where I mentioned that the show’s critical drubbing seemed to have no effect on attendance (a point also humorously made by Tom Campbell, the Met’s director, at his museum’s recent press luncheon, where he referred to “Regarding Warhol” as “the show everyone loves to hate,” and then reported on its robust attendance.
Shiner has shined a spotlight on an alternate take on the critical-popular dialectic: Maybe the opinions of critics sometimes do count!